There aren’t a ton of free things to do in Vancouver, but one that I’ve found is hiking. I turned to local guidebooks for ideas after travelling and really enjoying exploring new cities with the help of walking guides and thought maybe I could discover new areas close to home.
Now, I’m not one who finds enjoyment climbing up a steep hillside/mountain for 4 hours to reach a vista, then look around for a while and go back the way I came. I much prefer a loop without killer climbs. I like to have an exploration component and to get out and see places I haven’t seen before, and even better if I can do it with the dogs. There’s a few guidebooks that have maps for some of the better-known hikes in the Lower Mainland, and they’re generally good. I’ve done quite a few of them, and have avoided the crazier ones that are linear with a steep climb.
Then I came across Norman D. Watt’s book Off the Beaten Path, now in its second edition. I have no idea where I originally heard about it, but I borrowed it from the library and realized it was a keeper so I bought my own copy. More information here. Order it from the publisher here.
This one specializes in hikes on the North Shore. It contains some of the steep ones that I find less enjoyable, but also has some of the well-known ones like Lighthouse Park near Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver (which is pretty good) and Quarry Rock in the Deep Cove area of North Vancouver (its downfall is that it is linear). It introduced me to an area that I didn’t know existed for hiking in the Chartwell area of West Vancouver. There’s a whole former logging area along Brothers Creek and the Brewis Trail. My husband and I explored a whole area of the Trans Canada Trail that we didn’t know existed. It was a great, free, half-day out. That one crossed about six creeks, most of which had sturdy bridges and stairways, and one surprise rope we had to use to haul ourselves up a rock face to rejoin the trail. I had also known there were a number of trails in the lower Mount Seymour area of North Vancouver and it gave me a great introduction to them.
We have the 48km Baden-Powell trail that traverses the entire North Shore. Some people like to do sections of it and set up cars to leave one at the end of the walk, drive to their starting point and hike back. It’s a great trail, but that level of coordination just isn’t as fun to me! Off the Beaten Path has some great ideas that take parts of the Baden-Powell and combine it with other trails to make a good loop.
Sadly, I have almost completed all of the hikes I’d like to try out from the book and will have to somehow find other resources to learn about new areas to explore.